story-led_selling.jpgOnce upon a time… selling was all serious business – an organised assault on potential customers, an arena that two would enter but only one would leave with jangling pockets, the other left bamboozled and bruised where it hurts (in the wallet). The rise of story-led selling, however, has turned what used to be the business equivalent of fisticuffs into a smooth dance on light toes.

Know Your Audience

Some high street stores are now training their staff to identify which customers require the outlining of benefits, features, and cold hard facts, and which ones need to be seduced a little bit. With a story. Say someone walks into a perfume shop – she’s looking for something floral and nothing too sugary. She mentions that her grandma used to wear one that she particularly liked, but she can’t remember the name. This one, our salesperson explains, has lavender notes that take me right back to my auntie’s house when I was little. I’ve always loved how some smells just throw you into your memories, don’t you?

OK, it sounds a bit saccharine in writing, but the point is that you shouldn’t underestimate the power of the right story for the right person. The good news is, storytelling doesn’t need to be a time-consuming endeavour – there’s no need for you to do endless research sussing out which of your potential customers could have a nostalgic connection with your product, or which ones would just love a yarn about an old tree and a writing desk. It’s not performing a sales pitch to rival a Shakespearean soliloquy that’s important, it’s letting a personal touch come through so that people can see just what your business means to you. There’s nothing that builds trust in a product or service like enthusiasm and sincerity from the person offering it, and nothing that turns people off like apathy.

Personal Touch

The importance of stories for selling isn’t a new idea, but it is one that’s taken off in some new, and actually quite lovely, ways since the advent of social media. Businesses small and large are now taking the time to present themselves not as faceless, impersonal entities, but as groups of people reaching out to other people who might share their interests and ideologies. More and more, your customers are not just looking for the best service or product, they’re looking for someone wholeheartedly invested in the thing they are offering to the world. In other words, they’re looking for you, and, more importantly, your story.

Face Value

It’s been shown that 97% of over-achieving crowdfunding campaigns include a video presentation, and that’s because people feel more incentive to support people with stories than they do impersonal business concepts without a face or a narrative, and personality comes across best in person. Even if you’re not campaigning for funding, it could still be a nice idea to introduce yourself to your client base via a video presentation of this sort on your website. Just a short and friendly intro implicitly sends the message that you are a real person with integrity who is proud to be the face and name behind your business.

Getting Social

If you’re not much of a public speaker, there are still plenty of ways to get your story out there. Posting regular updates on Facebook or Twitter will keep your followers informed and involved, and it allows you to interact with them in a way that builds rapport and loyalty to your brand. Writing a blog is a particularly good exercise for small business owners – a photographer sharing tales of eventful shoots, for example, is a great way to get people engaging with you through the sharing of stories.

We all love hearing a good story, and storytelling as a way of drawing people in and building relationships is so inherent to our human nature that it almost defies being described as a selling technique. And that’s way it should be – natural, unaffected anecdotes are always the most effective. So get your story out there, and let it bring people, and their stories, back to you.

Published on 24 March 2016